All of my adult life, when I’ve visited my parents, I’ve reverted to being a kid. I expect to be fussed over, for my mom to continue to mother me as she has all these years. Recently, though, it seems the dynamic has been shifting; it’s as though I finally feel like an adult with them—maybe even an adult who wants to tend to her parents, rather than the other way around. And while it feels completely natural to me, if a tad overdue, I sense that my mother doesn’t quite believe she’s worthy of the fuss.
And I can understand it, actually, as a middle-aged mother of teenagers who’s never quite felt comfortable in her own skin or confident in her abilities as a mom. Sometimes it seems that we’ve put our children before us for so long, it’s uncomfortable to let the attention turn back.
Unfortunately, this inability to see ourselves for the awesome people we are can get in the way of our sense of self-worth. So I’m going to take the love-fest that is Valentine’s Day and dedicate it not only to the people I love, but to someone I wish I could love, someone I really want to love—someone who really needs me to love her.
So, dear valentine, here goes.
I love you because . . .
- You’ve helped raise children who are kind, respectful, intelligent and insightful. Deny it all you want, but the fact of the matter is you had a hand in this.
- After all of these years, you’re finally learning to stand up for yourself, politely but firmly. You’ve never had difficulty standing up for your kids, but you’ve always struggled with you. Whether you’re afraid of upsetting your kids or your spouse or the woman in the post office line who was rude to you, you’re finally learning that you are worthy of as much respect as you give others.
- Without even realizing it, by finding and doing activities that make you happy—work, hobbies, sports, music—you’ve shown your children that it’s healthy for parents to have their own interests, separately and together.
- You take care of yourself, in addition to taking care of everyone else. As easy as it might be to let your own health take a back seat, you’ve grown to recognize that you need to be healthy. Tending to yourself first might seem pretty selfish, but it’s actually pretty necessary.
- You try to model the beliefs and behaviors you know will be healthy and positive for your kids, even when you’ve struggled with them all of your life. It’s hard to say, “Be confident,” or “Like yourself,” or “Don’t be so hard on yourself” if you haven’t mastered that ability yet. You realize that problems like depression, alcoholism, disordered eating, body image and self-esteem issues don’t go away by pretending they don’t exist. By dealing with them, you’re showing your kids that happiness is a process, that no one is “perfect,” and that working on stuff is OK.
- You’ve never lost your sense of compassion or sense of humor regardless of what life has thrown at you. And because of that, your kids will never lose theirs.
At one time this might have been my valentine to my mother; it will maybe, someday, be my valentine to me. For today, it is to every woman who finds it easier to love others than to love herself. You may not be able to say these words yet, but don’t ever stop trying. Because someday, your kids are going to realize they want to fuss over you … and you should let them.